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Record crowd finds inspiration in the work of The Organic Center

Organic businesses contribute more than $415,000 to support organic research projects

Maggie McNeil
(202) 403-8514
(202) 615-7997
Washington , DC
March 16, 2016
) — 
A record-setting crowd of more than 650 organic visionaries, activists, and business executives gathered enthusiastically last week in Anaheim, California, at The Organic Center’s Annual Benefit Dinner. They enjoyed an organic feast, caught up with old friends and made new ones, celebrated the science of organic, and while doing so, raised over $415,000 to help advance the projects of the non-profit research and education organization.

The Organic Center’s annual fundraiser, one of the headline events at Natural Products Expo West, also drew an unprecedented audience for the event on social media channels, with its reach almost doubling from last year. More than 1.7 million people outside the ballroom shared in the event through the 845 social media updates posted by some 350 dinner guests and influencers at the gala using the #OrganicBenefit hashtag.
The sold-out gala, which was based around the theme “Good Food. Good Company. Good Science,” featured famed restaurateur, organic food activist and healthy-eating pioneer Alice Waters as the keynote speaker.

“Organic is completely right, and completely delicious,” said Waters. Waters, long a champion of organic food, discussed the dangerous impacts of what she called “fast food values” on our eating habits, our health and our culture. “This is why I believe so profoundly in edible education,” she said. Waters, who founded the Edible Schoolyard Project that advocates for a sustainable food curriculum in public schools, praised The Center’s educational mission.

All-organic menu for 650

Chef Matthew Raiford, executive chef and owner of The Farmer and The Larder, a restaurant in Brunswick, Georgia, committed to sustainability and health and recently named one of the most exciting new restaurants in the South, designed the all-organic menu for what was the largest dinner event of the five-day Expo. Often called “CheFarmer,” Raiford is an organic farmer and the sixth generation to farm on land that has been in his family since 1874.

“How do we grow kids to understand that food is the next best thing that keeps us all going?” asked Raiford in remarks to his audience of appreciative eaters. “We have to scream the benefits of organic from the rooftops! Tell everybody at every chance.”

Organic Center at work

“The Organic Center is doing crucial work to help moms and dads and everyone understand the importance of organic, and to keep producers informed of the best organic agricultural practices,” said Todd Linsky, chairman of the Board of Trustees for The Center. “This fun and inspiring evening helped all of us learn about the important work The Center is undertaking, and the generosity of our supporters raised needed funding to make this work possible.”

The Organic Center’s key objectives include consumer education on organic, and informing organic farmers, other organic stakeholders, and also non-organic producers on critical research to assist them in their operations. The Center collaborates with academics and governmental agencies on key organic research and has several research projects underway: 

  • A research collaboration to develop integrated pest management systems to increase organic rice production in the South,
  • A study of the use of animal-based manure and compost in organic farming and how to prevent the risk of soil pathogens, 
  • A research collaboration to quantify chemicals in conventional dairy milk and the extent to which consumers can avoid these exposures by choosing organic,
  • An environmental health project focusing on how farming practices can have an impact on the amount of reactive nitrogen released into the environment, and
  • A research collaboration on the net benefits of organic food and farming, focusing on climate change and human health.

Student volunteers from Turning Green helped educate the guests about The Center’s research projects in the areas of environment, health, and applied science during a cocktail hour, where various buffet stations featured menu items that drew inspiration from The Center’s science.

Event sponsors included Annie's, New Hope Network, Stonyfield Organic, UNFI, Nature's Path Foods, Organic Valley, WhiteWave Foods, Whole Foods Market, Cal-Organic/Grimmway Farms, Clover Stornetta Farms, Foster Farms Organic, Foxy Organic, Frontier Co-op, KeHE, Litehouse Foods, Lundberg Family Farms, Pete and Gerry's Organic Eggs, Aurora Organic Dairy, Driscoll's, ECOnscious, Frey Vineyards, Luna & Larry's Coconut Bliss, Metawear, and Uncle Matt's Organic.

Furthermore, Applegate, Clif Bar & Company, Dr. Bronner's, DSM Nutritional Products, Garden of Life, Honest Tea, Josie's Organics, Kashi Company, National Co+op Grocers, Perdue Agribusiness, SunOpta, and The Organic Coup supported the benefit dinner through reserved tables. 

Additionally, more than 120 organic ingredients were sourced from more than twenty companies to pull together the all-organic menu.

The Center will also be holding its first-ever Organic Confluences Summit in May in Washington, D.C., in conjunction with Organic Week. The summit will review the latest research on the benefits of organic agricultural practices and assess the available public programs that help farmers adopt those practices.

For more information on The Organic Center and the science behind organic food and farming, read the 2015 Annual Report.

The Organic Center’s mission is to convene credible, evidence-based science on the health and environmental benefits of organic food and farming, and to communicate the findings to the public. The Center is an independent non-profit 501(c)(3) research and education organization operating under the administrative auspices of the Organic Trade Association.